French men on working holiday visas have passports stolen while showering in Porirua
While Sven Seigneurin and Antoine Berthelot were showering at Te Rauparaha Arena and Aquatic Centre in Porirua before a hard day's work, thieves struck.
The two 23-year-old Frenchmen enjoying New Zealand on a working holiday visa had personal items worth up to $5000 stolen; passports, credit cards, cellphones, and even food were taken.
But thanks to the generosity of local mothers Lucy Stewart, Teresa Kent and Kristine Smith, and Porirua business owners, the tourists' faith in Kiwi hospitality was restored.
"They are both hardworking and lovely young men, and didn't deserve this to happen to them," Stewart said.
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"We were just being mums, treating them how we would want others to treat our kids if they were in the same predicament overseas."
On August 30, the pair pulled into the arena car park to use the facility's showers ahead of the day's commercial painting in Porirua.
Seigneurin and Berthelot returned to their camper van, which was emblazoned with a sticker warning those who might steal that "God is watching", to find the sliding door's lock tampered with and unlocked.
Opening the door and finding bedding and other things strewn throughout the van, they realised their home on wheels had been ransacked.
"They took everything we had - laptops, credit cards, passports, insurances card, even my shaver," Seigneurin said.
"I was quite angry, you can see that we're living [in the van]. It was really surprising, you know, because we weren't expecting to robbed," Berthelot added.
The duo waved down a police officer who was already in the car park and reported the incident.
Police confirmed they received a report about the incident, and that inquiries are ongoing to identify and locate the offender.
After the van was checked for finger prints, the French pair called their employer and said they would be late for work because they were visiting the Wellington-based Embassy of France.
When Stewart heard, she rallied support from the other mothers and began calling local businesses.
Mark Roach from Whitby New World donated a $100 food voucher, Tom Mugglestone of Light House Pauatahanui supplied a couple of movie tickets, and Mark Hughes of the Supply Room gifted a $40 voucher.
Another of Stewart's friends donated a $100 Pak 'n Save voucher while others brought in clothes, shoes, canned food, packets of noodles and coffee.
"Restoring their faith in humanity - that's what it's all about," Stewart said.
"The donations were a drop in the bucket for some of them, and we wanted to show the tourists that the community does actually care about them."
It brought Seigneurin and Berthelot to tears.
"We were so overwhelmed, we just couldn't believe these people's generosity," one said.
"I've never had anyone be so kind," added the other.
The incident hadn't put them off New Zealand, and they planned to travel to the South Island in the next two months.
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